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The ‘Horror’ of Cultural Diversity – Greetings

Europe is a diverse place with a number of languages and cultures. Despite knowing and understanding the differences, we still have some confusion in communication. One of the aspects I want to discuss is greeting people from other countries. The reason is that greetings caused many awkward moments equally for me and my conversation partners.

It is easy in formal situations because we keep some distance and follow the definite pattern. It is also not an issue when we greet a good friend of ours from another country. The trouble starts when our conversation partner is in ‘in-between’ zone. This means that we already passed the ‘formal’ threshold, but we still did not rich the friend zone.

I call this category ‘friends-in-trouble’. It is connected to the awkward moments which arise during communication, starting from greetings. Being culturally diverse, I feel that my knowledge rather hurts than helps in this particular case. I know that in some countries people shake hands, in some – hug, in some – kiss, and there are countries where people formally say ‘hi’.

The confusion goes to a new level because my conversation partners are also culturally aware people, who are nice and respecting. What on earth should we do? Should we greet each other like people do in Russia (as I am Russian)? Should we greet like people do in the country from which my conversation partner is? Or should we greet as people in Finland because I live there almost for 10 years? What if she/he also lives in the foreign for her/him country? And the worst case scenario – we meet in the fifth country (e.g. vacation/conference). Should we greet like people do there?

“She’s overthinking”, this is probably in your mind right now. Then, you have probably never offered the hand to shake when your conversation partner tried to kiss you in cheek. You have probably never tried to hug the person when she/he just said formal ‘hello’. Trust me it is embarrassing, very embarrassing… I am sure my friends-in-trouble feel the same way.

What do you think about it? Have you ever faced this problem?

22 thoughts on “The ‘Horror’ of Cultural Diversity – Greetings

  1. Well, it depends. I believe that shaking hands it’s universal, especially at introducing to one another. As for the kisses and hugs, they are popular, but for me it’s only for the closest friends and family, although many people have this habit of kissing cheeks when they meet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clearly, there are personal preferences. I agree that hugs and kisses are for the close ones. However, in Portugal it is a regular thing like hand shaking. I had some difficulties adjusting, but after some time I did not give too much attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In awkward moments I react rather than act.
    But most often a genuine warm smile, eye contact and openness help a lot. (Unless very formal, in which case I follow rather than lead.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. THIS! So, much, this! Lol I once “kissed” a girl trying to say goodbye and she blushed so much, I may as well have professed undying love to her! Lol This is because I lived in Latin America for 7 years and upon returning to the U.S., I forgot that people don’t kiss when greeting. I feel your pain, Elena. I now stick to a handshake. Haha ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting story! Thank you for sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚ as a girl, I had a similar experience in Portugal, where kisses are regular greetings. I had this suspicious feeling that everyone is attracted to me before I got used to it ๐Ÿ˜„

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Initially, be yourself when greeting. This will at least be a learning experience in international responses. Because it’s true– we are all culturally different. Anyway, how’s it going, Elena? You have a wonderful day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sometimes it can be hilarious when the ‘native’ greets the ‘stranger’. This week we are in North Norfolk where the typical greeting is ‘Hello my darlings’, this kind of confuses those who expect only ‘hello’. My wife (born in the USA) was bemused on meeting folks in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire when they greeted with @Ey up me duck’. In the USA I took a while to get used to being greeted by a hug from people who I was meeting for the first time. I think culture variation can be so much fun ๐Ÿ™‚


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